A career in computer science is a rewarding, fulfilling option for STEM-focused students, and it’s also a great choice for maximizing your earning potential. However, not all schools and programs are created equal.
“Computer science majors have incredible earning potential, no matter the school, but in some cases, it’s about where you study as much as what. Colleges and universities located in close proximity to tech hubs like Silicon Valley or Silicon Alley are going to create great internships, campus recruiting and school-to-work opportunities for graduates,” says Aubrey Bach, senior manager, editorial and marketing, for compensation benchmarking and analysis firm PayScale. “There’s also going to be a greater concentration of alumni and networking opportunities in these areas, and often higher pay,” Bach says. Here, based on PayScale’s 2015-2016 College Salary Report, CIO.com reports on the top 10 schools for computer science based on median salary.
PayScale’s salary data is based on annual salary or hourly wage, bonuses, profit sharing, tips, commissions, overtime and other forms of cash earnings as applicable (but not equity compensation, cash value of retirement benefits, or value of other non-cash benefits) for alumni of 1,034 institutions with bachelor’s degrees only. Figures are for median salary (half of respondents earn more; half of respondents earn less) for early career (five or fewer years of experience) and mid-career (10 or more years of experience) earnings. The full report is available here. Information on enrollment, available programs and degrees comes from individual institutions’ publicly available data.
University of California – Santa Barbara (UCSB)
This university is located about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles and, as of 2014, enrolled approximately 23,000 students. The UCSB computer science department is part of the College of Engineering, and as of fall 2013, the computer science department counted approximately 300 students enrolled.
University of California – Berkeley
Berkeley offers two paths to a computer science degree; one through electrical engineering and computer science, with graduates awarded a bachelor’s of science degree, and the other a Bachelor of Arts degree in computer science. Berkeley’s location makes it a prime recruiting and networking spot for nearby Silicon Valley. As of 2014, the public university enrolls approximately 35,000 students, of which 2,012 are enrolled in the computer science program (both BA and BS).
Located in New York City, Columbia offers plenty of big-city opportunities and experiences for students. For computer science graduates, the private university’s proximity to Silicon Alley and the tech and pharmaceutical industries in Westchester County as well as in neighboring New Jersey offer great career opportunities. Currently, Columbia enrolls approximately 30,000 students, with 57 awarded degrees in computer science during the 2013-2014 academic year.
University of Delaware
Conveniently located near major technology hubs in the northeastern U.S., the University of Delaware is a public university that offers a comprehensive computer science and information sciences program for its approximately 23,000 students. The university’s College of Engineering awarded 24 bachelor’s degrees in computer engineering for the 2013-2014 academic year.
When you think of computer science degrees, chances are Stanford University comes to mind. The private university located in the middle of Silicon Valley boasts some familiar IT industry alumni, including Larry Page, Elon Musk and Bill Hewlett and David Packard, among others. Stanford currently enrolls approximately 16,000 students, of which 452 were enrolled in the computer science curriculum for the academic year 2013-2014.
California Polytechnic State University (CalPoly)
Cal Poly’s focus on STEM education and careers makes it a magnet for science and engineering students. The public university, located in San Luis Obispo, offers computer science bachelor’s and master’s degree programs through its College of Engineering. The school enrolls approximately 19,000 undergraduates with approximately 5,000 in their engineering programs as of the 2013-2014 school year.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
If Stanford comes to mind when you think West Coast computer science schools, then MIT is the East Coast equivalent. The private, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based technology school is located in Boston’s booming tech corridor with access to many startups and bio-medical firms in the area. MIT enrolls approximately 11,000 students with approximately 450 in the computer science and electrical engineering program.
Northwestern offers a computer science degree through both the McCormick School of Engineering (Bachelor of Science) and through the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences (Bachelor of Arts). The private research university currently enrolls approximately 20,000 students overall with approximately 31 computer science degrees awarded in 2013.
California State University – East Bay (CSUEB)
Just north of Silicon Valley, in the tech-rich hub of San Francisco’s East Bay, CSUEB is a public university offering computer science degrees through its department of math and computer science. As of 2014, the university enrolled approximately 15,000 students and awarded 152 computer science degrees in academic year 2013-2014.
University of Southern California (USC)
Los Angeles-based USC is a private university in the heart of the city, with major career opportunities in this tech-savvy city. The university currently enrolls approximately 43,000 students and offers computer science programs through its Viterbi School of Engineering, which currently enrolls 320 students in a combined computer engineering and computer science degree program, as well as a stand-alone computer science degree track.